Sam Anderson is an award-winning staff writer for The New York Times Magazine - formerly a book critic for the same. He lives in Beacon, New York. His first book, “Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, its Chaotic Founding... its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-class Metropolis” was released this summer.

“Boom Town” hops around the fascinating story of Oklahoma’s capital city, which is like zooming in on a sped up story of America with everything that entails: dream attainment and major success for some; land ownership; enormous civic pride perhaps only outmatched by civic confusion; power-struggles; architecture that goes up too fast; solid and stately buildings that get knocked down too soon in the name of progress; the unfortunate truths that generate the necessity for an inspiring civil rights movement; extreme weather, sports, rock and roll, and terror.

Oklahoma City also boasts more than a few events that could safely be called uniquely its own, with one example being: Operation Bongo. In 1964, the Federal Aviation Administration used various aircraft to generate sonic booms over OKC to test their effect on structures and public attitude. The public attitude was, largely: “Quit it with the sonic booms.”

Anderson was sent to OKC by The New York Times Magazine to write a splashy feature on the city's NBA team, The Thunder. Luckily for readers, he made a major connection to the place and with the people who live there.

Mick Cornett served four terms as Oklahoma City's longest-serving Mayor from 2004 to 2018. Midway through his time in office, Newsweek called him one of the five most innovative mayors in the country, and at the end of his Mayoralty he was named #25 on Fortune Magazine's "World's Greatest Leaders" list. London-based World Mayors listed him as the #2 mayor in the world, and Governing magazine named him the Public Official of the Year in 2010. Best known for helping Oklahoma City attract the NBA's Thunder franchise and putting Oklahoma City "on a diet" to lose a collective million pounds, Cornett also led the charge to pass MAPS 3, an innovative $800 million civic infrastructure investment in parks, urban transit, wellness centers, and downtown amenities that have dramatically reshaped Oklahoma City.

Cornett's books, "The Next American City: The Big Promise of Our Midsize Metros," is a hopeful and illuminating look at the dynamic and inventive urban centers that will lead the United States in coming years.

Keith Strudler: Houston's Big Comeback

May 23, 2018

The Houston Rockets did something completely unexpected last night against the Golden State Warriors. Down two games to one in a best-of-seven Western Conference Finals series, and trailing by 10 going into the fourth quarter, the Rockets managed an improbable comeback win to tie the series as they head back to Houston for Game Five. Not to get into the weeds, but this changes the entire complexion of the series, which, before 9 p.m. last night most people assumed would end soon and with certainty. That’s because the Warriors beat Houston by 41 in Game Three and made the Rockets look like a high school JV. So, now Golden State has gone from presumptive NBA Champions to a team that has to steal a game on the road to get to the Finals. Such is the nature of the NBA Playoffs, where momentum shifts as often as our White House staff.

Keith Strudler: Trust The Process

Apr 25, 2018

The sexiest construct in NBA basketball right now isn’t what you’d think. It’s not a dunk, or a fast break, even something as essential as offense or defense. It’s not even a star player, like LeBron James or James Harden. The basketball buzz word of the moment is process. As in trust The Process.

Keith Strudler: Going Pro

Apr 4, 2018

Now that we’ve crowned a national champion in men’s college basketball, the sport enters its version of what Major League Baseball calls Hot Stove. It’s when a handful of elite college basketball players, a lot of them still in their first year of school, decide whether they are going to enter the NBA draft. For some, it’s a fairly foregone conclusion – like Michael Porter of Missouri or Marvin Bagley of Duke, both fab freshmen who should be drafted in the top five this summer. In fact, the majority of most mock draft boards are made up of what we call one-and-dones, with a few sophomores and upperclassmen thrown in. Honestly, it looks like the roster for an intro college psych class.

Keith Strudler: Best Bar Mitzvah Ever

Dec 20, 2017

When it comes to Bar Mitzvahs, particularly in the greater New York metropolitan area, it’s always the case of trying to keep up with the Schwartzs. That means having more dancers, or a bigger band, or more elaborate deserts. Or, as is the custom, don’t serve dinner until around midnight, which seems to be the arbiter of status of the upper class. Or, if that doesn’t work, have Kyle O’Quinn of the New York Knicks come as your newly minted adult’s special guest. That’s right, if you play your cards right, you can have your very own New York Knick singing Hava Nagila and doing the chicken dance and being the envy of every 13 year old that’s ever played a single JCC pick-up game.

Keith Strudler: Two Minutes

Nov 22, 2017

In the official record books, Michael Porter Jr. will likely complete his college athletic career having played two official minutes of Division I basketball for the University of Missouri. That’s neither definitive nor official at this point, because Porter is only in his first season with the Tigers. But it’s a very strong hunch.

Keith Strudler: The Future’s (Not) So Bright

Oct 18, 2017

There is nothing better than the future. It's bright, exciting, and assumes limitless potential.  No matter the challenge of the moment, the future always allows for unbridled optimism. In many cases, we live our life with that expectation, delaying instant gratification for the promise of tomorrow. For example, we don't buy sports cars we want today so we can have a lovely retirement. It's part of the DNA of raising kids. Almost every assignment we give our youth leads towards some attainable future goal. Take that away, and no child may ever take a calculus class ever again, much less clean their room.

“It is great to welcome back professional basketball to the Washington Avenue Armory and the Capital Region. I can’t wait for the first tip off,” said Assemblymember John T. McDonald III.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Sports enthusiasts and local businesspeople are hoping the third time's a charm for a beloved Albany basketball franchise.

NBA Player James Harden

James Harden became a star in Houston, and now he's ready to call the city home. Harden signed a four-year, "supermax" extension Saturday, a whopper of a deal that guarantees Harden about $228 million over the next six seasons and makes it the richest contract in league history. The extension alone tacks another $170 million or so — depending on how the salary cap escalates — on to a contract that still had two more years and nearly $60 million remaining. It's a mammoth deal befitting one of the league's brightest stars, which is exactly what the Beard has become in five seasons with the Rockets.

#SportsReport: Rookies Command MLB All Star Vote

Jul 3, 2017
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
Keith Allison

MLB:  Nick Pivetta allowed one hit in seven impressive innings for his second major league win, and the Philadelphia Phillies stopped the New York Mets' four-game winning streak with a 7-1 victory. Maikel Franco had a two-run double in a four-run second aided by a pair of sacrifice bunts. Rookie catcher Andrew Knapp added an RBI single and dashed home from second on a wild pitch by Rafael Montero.

Keith Strudler: NBA Draft Champions

Jun 21, 2017

Thursday is the NBA draft. You may or may not have known this, based on both your geography and relative interest in the sport. The draft isn’t for casual fans, those who enjoy the sport on occasion or perhaps when the games matter most – like the playoffs. The draft, for the NBA or any other sport, is for people who care how the sausage is made. It’s like people who watch CSPAN to see the party whip in action before a vote.

Keith Strudler: The Importance Of Rest

Apr 12, 2017

So last week I had the flu. I’m saying this mainly in the dim hopes of garnering sympathy from the listening audience. It also made me keenly aware of the importance of rest. When you have the flu, you pretty much live your life one long nap to the next, in-between which you change sweat soaked shirts and complain to anyone that’s close enough to hear. But no matter what you do, or what medication you take, or what faith healer you call, the only thing that’s going to make you better is rest.

Every sports fan recalls with amazing accuracy a pivotal winning moment involving a favorite team or player - yet lost are the stories on the other side of these history-making moments, the athletes who experienced not transcendent glory but crushing disappointment: the cornerback who missed the tackle on the big touchdown; the relief pitcher who lost the series; the world-record holding Olympian who fell on the ice.

In Losing Isn’t Everything, sportscaster Curt Menefee (joined by bestselling writer Michael Arkush) examines a range of signature "disappointments" from the wide world of sports, interviewing the subject at the heart of each loss and uncovering what it means—months, years, or decades later—to be associated with failure. 

Keith Strudler: Summer Basketball

Jul 13, 2016

This week my two boys, age 6 and 8, started summer league outdoor basketball in my town of Beacon. For the uninitiated, summer ball is a particular basketball pleasure, an offseason gathering for those who truly love the sport. Its lacks the structure and perhaps urgency of winter ball, the sport’s natural regular season. It’s outdoors, instructional, and really for people that see basketball as not simply a sport on the rotation, but a year round pursuit.

Keith Strudler: Durant’s Heel Turn

Jul 6, 2016

In professional wrestling, the term “heel” refers to the bad guy. The guy who plays dirty and usually hits someone with a chair. The “face,” or “baby face,” is the good guy, the hero. He’s the one we all cheer for and always does the right thing, at least by professional wrestling standards. Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the sport – and yes, I know it’s fake – is when a good guy, a “face,” turns into a bad guy. It’s called a “heel turn,” and it’s as predictable as an episode of Bar Rescue. Hulk Hogan did it, Stone Cold Steve Austin did it. If you’ve been in the square circle long enough, chances are you went from good to bad. And perhaps back again.

Chances are if you’re a dedicated WAMC listener, Frank Deford is a part of your morning routine. The legendary sportswriter has delivered more than 1,600 commentaries for Morning Edition over the past 36 years. His wry and incisive observations remain a refreshing antidote in an age of shouty sports talk defined by hot takes.

An Emmy and Peabody winner, Deford has written 18 books and serves as senior contributing writer at Sports Illustrated, where he first appeared in 1962. He’s also a correspondent for Real Sports on HBO.

This Saturday, Deford will sign copies of his new book I’d Know That Voice Anywhere: My Favorite NPR Commentaries at Sweetpea in Stone Ridge, New York.

Keith Strudler: End The Sadness

Jun 1, 2016

If you’re a basketball fan, this is what you’ve been waiting for. After months of regular season, followed by another lifetime of playoffs, we’ve finally arrived at the grand finale. The end of this wonderful tale. Thursday, the NBA Finals begins, a best of seven series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending champion Golden State Warriors, a rematch from last year. This is the matchup we’ve all waited for, the best team in the history of the NBA, at least according to their regular season record, against perhaps the best all-around player in NBA history, if you believe that about LeBron James, as many do. It’s small ball that the Warriors play, whipping the ball around the perimeter to 3-point shooters, against star ball, which the Cavaliers practice in LeBron, and to a lesser degree Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the most current incarnation of a Big Three. It’s east vs west, San Fran vs Cleveland, and pretty much every other clichéd opposite you’d care to present. Just to put it in terms everyone can understand, both potential leads for Space Jam 2 will play in this game. That in itself should let you know how big this series really is.

Keith Strudler: The Promise Of A Better Tomorrow

Mar 2, 2016

I believe in evolution. And I mean that not in the political context it’s often discussed, but rather simply I believe we progress over time. You get to see this at the Museum of Natural History, when you realize the shark of a million years ago is different than the one swimming in the Pacific – although for the record I’m afraid of both. Crocodiles, house cats, monkeys – they’ll all changed with the times. And if they didn’t, they’d become extinct. Just ask the Dodo bird or the Sabre-tooth cat.

Keith Strudler: The Spoils Of A Star's Life

Dec 2, 2015

There’s good news for Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Jahlil Okafor. First, his team finally got their first win of the season last night, beating the also hapless Los Angeles Lakers to bring their record to 1-18. That puts them one win ahead of the Lakers for the all-important top spot in the NBA draft lottery, which seems to be the 6ers title every year now.

Keith Strudler: Golden State Of Grace

Nov 25, 2015

It’s hard to say what perfection looks like, since, by all practical regards it doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s typically a poor aspirational, which is why perfect is the enemy of good. But in sports, perfection stands as the ultimate barometer. The perfect game, the perfect pass, the perfect race. As long as there are games and people to play them, people will chase the holy grail of an athletic performance without flaw.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Albany basketball legend Luther “Ticky” Burden has died in North Carolina.

Keith Strudler: Life’s Great Awards

Jul 22, 2015

Not all sports awards are created the same. For example, if you win, say, the most improved on your high school JV tennis team, that’s fine. But if you win the Super Bowl MVP award, that’s better. With the ubiquity of awards and requisite ceremonies, most people are rightfully judicious on which commendations to cherish, and which to simply accept. In other words, some go on your wall, while others straight to the basement, if the trash.

Today's Sports News

May 22, 2015


To the NBA Playoffs and the Western Conference finals where Stephen Curry allowed the Golden State Warriors to overcome an outstanding performance by James Harden as the Warriors held off Houston 99-98 and take a 2-0 series lead.

Keith Strudler: Basketballs And Ping Pong Balls

May 20, 2015

Yesterday was a good day for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Those days have been few and far between as of late, since they’ve just wrapped up a league worst 16-66 record for the year. But while the final four remaining NBA squads play in the conference championships, the T-Wolves may have had last night’s best result, even better than the league leading Golden State Warriors, who took a 1-0 series lead against the Houston Rockets.

Westchester Knicks To Play Home Opener

Nov 19, 2014

Westchester’s new NBA Development League affiliate of the New York Knicks plays its home opener Wednesday evening.

Keith Strudler: Future Tense For Chicago Fans

Nov 12, 2014

For Derrick Rose, the future is not right now. That’s likely disappointing for Chicago Bulls fans who have waited for some eternity for that moment to come. They’ve endured injury after heart breaking injury as perhaps the league’s third best player watched from the sidelines, keeping the Bulls from being little more than a playoff nuisance for the Eastern Conference’s elite. Now, after essentially two years of waiting, Rose is finally wearing something other than a suit and tie on the bench and can actually contribute to a team some consider, if Rose is playing and healthy, perhaps the best in the entire league.

Keith Strudler: King James Goes Home

Nov 5, 2014

Life doesn’t always go according to plan. If it did, I’d be writing this from my ski chalet in Switzerland while my 7 year old cures Cancer. Things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for the sports fans of Cleveland, either. That’s pretty much true for all of sporting history, but particularly true at this very moment, where their beloved Cavaliers are now 1-2 to start this NBA season. That wouldn’t be entirely unusual, if it weren’t for the fact that this season marked the return of the Chosen One LeBron James, who returned from Miami to finally bring a title to beleaguered city. And he brought all-star forward Kevin Love with him, who, along with point guard Kyrie Erving, would form the new holy trinity of power in the Eastern Conference, something the Heat managed for the past several seasons.

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Former New York Knicks guard Luther "Ticky" Burden has been diagnosed with a rare heart disease and is being treated at a Manhattan hospital. Two local fundraisers are being held to give the NBA star a helping hand.

Keith Strudler: Jason Kidd's New Job

Jul 2, 2014

Life is always relative. A good job for someone might be a failure to another. Gourmet food in one kitchen is another’s table scraps. But nowhere is that more true than when you talk about salary. One man’s fortune is another man’s welfare. That seems to be the current case of NBA basketball coach Jason Kidd. After one year of his first ever coaching job as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, the former all-star point guard has left New York for the same job in Milwaukee. Milwaukee. A city Brooklyn could swallow whole for breakfast. Who’s most famous resident was likely William Rehnquist. But it falls off quickly from there. Where they can’t get an arena built, a place NBA free agents see as some sort of purgatory between Boston and LA. That’s where Jason Kidd will spend his second year coaching in the NBA, just named head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.